Oh, Netflix “Daredevil” TV series: I love you, but sometimes not so much.
“Daredevil” season one was the only superhero-themed TV series that I was excited to watch all the way through. It slowed down occasionally, but I found something to love about every episode.
Except for the fight scenes. Although I suppose it’s appropriate for a TV series about a blind crime fighter to have fight choreography created by someone who apparently can’t see. This is a complaint I had from season one, and it doens’t look like things are going to change in the preview to season two.
The problem is that in a superhero anything, fight scenes are pretty important. So I am going to break down why I think most of the fight scenes in Daredevil don’t work.
To have an effective fight scene, you need to establish a few things:
- The hero has to have a reason to be there.
- The hero and the opponents have to have some kind of competance when it comes to fighting.
- There have to be stakes to lose if the hero fails.
- Realism. There has to be the possibility that the hero can fail.
- Tha action has to be sensical, and the audience has to be able to see it.
- The antagonists have to have a reason for what they are doing.
“Daredevil” is great at establishing why the hero is there. It establishes that the hero has competence, and points out the stakes of failure. The motivations of the main villains make sense as well. But this coutesy is not extended to the fight scenes.
Let’s narrow this down.
I Wield The Sticks Of Minor Abrasions!
The Daredevil fights with sticks; that’s one of his “things.” But it is ridiculously obvious that when he’s using the sticks, he is obviously swatting them with the intention of being blocked. He’s not stabbing with them, he’s not using them in any way other than to match a block. There’s no strategy in how they are used. And of course there isn’t: because this is obviously not a fight, it’s a dance.
And the fact that he uses sticks doesn’t seem to grant him any kind of advantage against other people.
I don’t care how tough anyone is. If they accidentally slam their pinky finger in the silverware door, they’ll yell. But not a peep if they get thrashed about the arms, chest, neck, and head with a steel baton? And after getting smacked with steel rods, just a quick headshake and back in doing the same old stuff that didn’t work in the first place?
Think about it. Daredevil is beating these people with metal sticks. I mean, he is going on a full “John Bonham on a roid rage” beating with these people. But when they bad guys get knocked back, they come in just as quick.
I know that it’s all choreograohed; that none of these people are really getting hit. But can’t they at least PRETEND they’re getting hit?
Everyone Is An Aerobics Sauvant
Another problem is stamina. In a fight against multiple foes, Daredevil approaches each fight with all of the energy he had the last fight. Fighting ten people in a row is the same as fighting a single person. His reactions never slow, he still shows the same skills, he’s never punch-drunk.
Same with the people he’s fighting. They come at him 100% and keep on him with the same amount of energy until they are knocked unconscious. Think about that. The ONLY speeds these fights have are 100% and 0%.
I mentioned that a fight has to have stakes. One of the stakes is what happens if one fights too much and becomes exhausted. A person can be a supremely good fighter, but after the tenth person in a row, you would expect at least a little tenderness and bruising.
But after a roomfull of bad guys, Daredevil isn’t even sweaty.
Which is all fine, but after a long fight this gets REALLY boring.
Nothing Anyone Does Makes Any Sense
In the end, no matter how long the fight lasts, nothing changes. No one gets hurt one way or another until the plot demands that a baddie fall. Until that point is reached, the bad guy is as sensible and feeling as a training dummy.
And even when they are fighting, the in-fight decisions make no sense. At no point, for instance, does a single bad guy think “man, we are getting KILLED here… I’d better run away and get more people!” Nope, they all pile in on Daredevil until they are ALL knocked out. Awesome esprit de corp, sure, but not realistic.
We have people doing cartwheels in a fight, kicking high time after time, obviously telegraphing their moves, doing fancy gymnastics that in any real-world situation would get them flattened; it just goes on.
In the end, it doesn’t look like a fight scene. It looks like a scene filled with people who don’t know how to fight, but sure know a lot about sparring and tumbling.
This, combined with sticks that don’t hurt and people who never suffer from exhaustion until plot convenience kicks in, makes for a boring fight.
I Can’t See The Fight With The Blind Guy!
It doesn’t help that the scenes are by and large filmed in dark hallways or buildings, that the camerawork is jarring, and the editing fast.
Here’s why they do that. Directors mistakenly think that sudden closeups, constantly moving cameras, and snap editing makes for exciting action. So rather than allowing the action to drive the scene, quick cuts, closeups, and editing is supposed to do all the heavy lifting.
And for that, Michael Bay, you should be imprisoned for the rest of your life with an iron mask fixed firmly on your head.
Seriously, the whole trend of using jerky editing and cinematography to imply action needs to go away. When everyone in the scene dresses in the same colors and fight in a dark room, what’s the point of filming it at all?
Action That Works
Let’s look at action that works. In this case, Mad Max: Fury Road. Hate or love the movie, you have to admit the action was shot beautifully. And the trick?
The source of action was ALWAYS in the center of the screen, the edits happened to follow the action rather than force it, and you could easily see and place the action in time and space.
Also, the fighters obviously got exhausted, made mistakes, got punch drunk, and had to rise above their horrible difficulties to succeed.
That’s it. No huge secret.
But with Daredevil, the prolonged fight sequences against minions are there only to showcase the (admittedly great) gymnastic and tumbling skills of the doubles hired for the scene. There is no tension in it.
I think it would be so much better in a fight if, towards the end, Daredevil discovered that two people in the fight ran away. He now has a VERY limited amount of time before twenty more people with guns show up. He has to decide whether to run or try to do what he has come to do in a hurry.
“Daredevil” can certainly pull out some really good fight sequences. But when many of the other fights feel like time fillers, there’s no reason for me to not skip ahead.
Which is why I regard “Daredevil” as a fantastic show occasionally interrupted by some very boring fight sequences.